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Jun 14, 2008

G.R. No. 73974, May 31, 1995

  • Regalian Doctrine
  • Burden of Proof of private ownership rests on plaintiff
  • Doctrine of indefeasibility of Torrens title, exception


Petitioner was awarded a 17-hectare parcel of land, by virtue of which he was issued an OCT.

Through an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Lands, it was found that the free patent acquired by Petitioner was fraudulent. A case for falsification of public documents was filed by Petitioner was acquitted of the crime.

Subsequently, the Solicitor-General filed a complaint against Petitioner, praying for the declaration of nullity of the Free Patent and the OCT.

Petitioner's main contention was that the land in question was no longer within the unclassified public forest land because by the approval of his application for Free Patent by the Bureau of Lands, the land was already alienable and disposable public agricultural land. He also claimed that the land was a small portion of Lot 5139, an area which had been declared disposable public land by the cadastral court.


  • Whether or not the land is alienable and disposable public land


Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands not otherwise clearly appearing to be privately-owned are presumed to belong to the State. Forest lands, like mineral or timber lands which are public lands, are not subject to private ownership unless they under the Constitution become private properties. In the absence of such classification, the land remains unclassified public land until released therefrom and rendered open to disposition.

The task of administering and disposing lands of the public domain belongs to the Director of Lands, and ultimately the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Classification of public lands is, thus, an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, through the Office of the President. Courts have no authority to do so.

Thus, in controversies involving the disposition of public agricultural lands, the burden of overcoming the presumption of state ownership of lands of the public domain lies upon the private claimant.

In the present case, Petitioner failed to present clear, positive and absolute evidence to overcome said presumption and to support his claim.

Moreover, the fact the Petitioner acquired a title to the land is of no moment, notwithstanding the indefeasibility of title issued under the Torrens System. The indefeasibility of a certificate of title cannot be invoked by one who procured the same by means of fraud. Fraud here means actual and extrinsic -- an intentional omission of fact required by law.

Petitioner committed fraud by his failure to state that the land sought to be registered still formed part of the unclassified forest lands.


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